A Year of Living Like Paul

MorgueFiles - lakemountains

MorgueFiles - lakemountains

This past January 20 marked the one year anniversary of the death of my friend, Paul Coakley. Last year I wrote two articles about my thoughts on his life, death and subsequent impact upon me. Now that a year has passed, I would like to offer another reflection upon said impact.

I wrote at the end of my second article about what I believe to be Paul’s heroic love for people. It would be a lie to say that I have lived up well to his example and thus I will not play at being a saint. “Battles won and battles lost” sums up anything that could be said of my efforts over the past year. There is, however, one particular battle upon which I wish to focus.

The Battle of the Bulge

I have almost always been overweight. This fact has never been a pleasant one, but is real nevertheless. Back in 1996, I was grossly overweight. In November of that year I began a weight loss program that was very successful: 65-pounds weight loss in 2.5 months. I credit that weight loss not only to the program but also that I was becoming more active and had a metabolism proper to a 15-year old.

From early 1997 to about 2002 my weight fluctuated and I was still considered overweight but not overly so. From about 2002 onward I began to pack on the pounds bit by bit. From 2009-2010, I lost a significant amount of weight, only to put back on all of it and more by July, 2015. Looking at myself last year causes me to cringe. I speak in the past tense because on July 6, 2015 I embarked upon a new weight loss endeavor. Since this date, I have lost 110+ pounds.

Your eyes do not deceive you. I just claimed that I lost over 100 pounds in roughly 6-7 months. I have medical records, pictures and witnesses to support my claim.

While I do not wish to turn this article into a free advertisement for the specific weight loss endeavor that I am on, I do wish to make a plug for it.

The Low Carb Diet

The endeavor that I began is known as “Low Carb/High Fat/Moderate Protein Diet” (LCHF for short, or just simple “the diet”). A friend here in Texas, Craig Lehrmann, began his own experiment with this diet on February 1 of last year and has lost 140 pounds in exactly one year. To see Craig then and now shocks people, in fact he has had to reintroduce himself to people as they do not recognize him. Craig told me about “the diet” and while I initially resisted, I relented and began the diet after the Fourth of July weekend.

“Eat fat to lose fat” is a tagline for the LCHF diet. Yes, it sounds completely crazy, but as I live and breathe, it works. Combined with the diet I did some moderate walking for exercise around where I live. From November onwards, and with my doctor’s consent, I began weight resistance training with Craig. Compared to when I first started in the gym to now there is a world of difference, though assuredly, I am and never will be Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first day I nearly threw up; now I do my routine and move right along.

I am happy to say that I almost have an entirely new wardrobe and a fresher, healthier outlook on life. Far from perfection, of course, but I am daily striving to do better and better.

Living Like Paul

How does all of the above fit in with my Live Like Paul story? Paul’s death shook me up as hardly anything else ever had previously in my life. His death at age 34 after himself being a very physically active person (even beating records set by Lance Armstrong in athletic competitions, I am told), forced me to think about the direction of my own life. Like Paul, now I am aged 34 years and am more intimately aware of my own mortality and my responsibility to take care of myself.

This unexpected turn of events in my life was heralded by the tragic loss of a great man, my friend and brother. Despite this tragedy, good has been brought about, and, dare I say, with others as well. Hopefully, we have learned what it means to value people whilst God wills them to be with us. Here today, gone the next. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow; only the present moment is given to us to serve Christ the King. Paul, I suspect, knew this reality and lived it to its fullest.

There is a famous quote from Book 4, Chapter 20, verse 7 of St. Irenaeus’ Against Heresies that has been very popular in theology for the past several decades. The quote goes “The glory of God is the living man…” (Gloria enim Dei vivens homo). Often neglected is the second half of this quote which is, “…but the life of man is the vision of God” (…vita autem hominis visio Dei). Paul lived the vision of God and I believe that this vision brought him life that he lived to its fullest. He was a man of prayer and his actions were rooted, I understand from his wife, in his communion with God, especially in the mornings.[i]

From here, I do not know what will happen, but I do know that what I am doing is a lifestyle change. I am a better person for having known and loved Paul Coakley, as I wrote last year, and his love for me and all of his friends continues to burn brightly in the hearts and minds of those who were blessed to know him. Losing weight and becoming healthier is a “Live Like Paul” effort and he is before me in the difficult moments.


[i] A weird quirk of being on the LCHF diet for some people is the ability to become a morning person. I find it easier now to rise early in the morning and appreciate the still and quiet of the early morning. Paul was certainly onto something here and the peace and quiet aids me as I pray my morning devotions and prepare for work. Weekends afford me the opportunity to sleep in and so a good balance is struck.


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4 thoughts on “A Year of Living Like Paul”

  1. retiredconservative

    Mr. Symonds,

    Please accept my condolences (albeit a year late) on the loss of your friend. In all honesty, I clicked through because I assumed the Paul whose year you lived was the apostle, St. Paul.

    I wanted to comment on your ‘specific weight loss endeavor.’ For many of us who have struggled with our weight, LCHF has become how we eat, not our weight loss endeavor. LCHF stabilizes blood sugar, fuels the brain with ketones, and erases decades of insulin and leptin resistance.

    I applaud you for adopting a more healthful way of eating and a more healthful level of activity. I encourage you to accept these more healthful habits for as long as your blood sugar levels respond rapidly to carbohydrates.

    Until I adopted LCHF, I was a glutton–in modern day parlance ‘a compulsive overeater.’ I was powerless over carbohydrates. LCHF is the only way I can eat until I’m sated and wait to eat again until my body needs fuel. The upside is that LCHF is much tastier than any carb-fueled diet.

  2. Aquinas gave multiple ways we can sin by gluttony: quantity, speed of eating, eating too early, eating too expensively. Teens and athletic adults probably sin through speed of eating without knowing it because Aquinas has been forgotten on this topic.
    The problem with snacking etc. ( going beyond meals ) is that it slowly weds us to this world if we indulge over long like that in terms of quantity and months. There is something Christian in pulling back food intake ( it’s called temperance ) if done for Godliness but if done only for our looks…not so much. No one pictures Christ as overweight and I for one can’t figure how He fasted for forty days and forty nights. Feb.10 begins Lent. You can enjoy the weight loss of fasting or abstinence as a secondary benefit but it’s main goal is to help us symbolically leave this earth, de-wed from this earth and prefer rather to be with the Risen Lord. At the Resurrection, Aquinas said we will get our bodies back at their peak age. The elderly and deceased infants will not come back elderly or as infants but at their prime. I’m guessing we’ll all be our proper weight too. Aquinas was called an ox. Well his mom was Germanic not Italian so that’s a factor relative to living in Italy but there’s metabolism problems etc. I saw a lady in an office the other day who was slender up top but below the waist, she was a diffetent person and one couldn’t imagine her losing that thigh weight from dieting. Lent….Walmart has $11 frozen bags of c. 13 individually wrapped tilapia fish fillets.
    Take several out the day before and they can replace that big burger or that breakfast of eggs and bacon.

    1. Hi! Thank you for posting. Indeed, Aquinas is largely neglected here and thank you for reminding me of his talking points!

    2. You’re welcome. Aquinas is neglected by the whole Church in this area and his point about eating fast is very true and should be noted in sermons. USA children being obese would be a good jumping off point for a homilist.

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